Posted tagged ‘kindness’

Grandparent’s Day: Treating Loneliness

September 11, 2017

by Dr. Steven J.Callis

Comedian Bill Dana related a story as Jose Jimenez, deep sea diver.  He was on the ocean floor all alone, and coming at him from one direction was a huge shark, a large octopus from another direction, and a barracuda from yet another.  “And then, something terrible happened:  they went away, and I was all alone again.”

            We do not relish thinking about it, but the Beatles did not want us to forget, with their 1966 song, Eleanor Rigby:  Ah, look at all those lonely people.  Where do they come from, where do they belong?  Bobby Vinton sang about Mr. Lonely who has nobody to call his own.  America’s Dan Peek wrote a song “for all the lonely people.”  Songs abound on the topic of loneliness.

            Grandparents Day has been celebrated on the Sunday following Labor Day ever since 1978 when President Jimmy Carter declared that day a national holiday.  We jokingly suspect that a grandparent came up with the idea, but the actual founder of Grandparents Day was a West Virginia mother of 15 children.

            Marian McQuade had much more in mind than a mere celebration.  Her purpose was to raise awareness for elderly nursing home residents, fearing that they were missing out on important family bonding due to their need for intensive care.  Her campaign was grounded on the fact that we can learn much from our entire elderly community.

            In 2003, McQuade confessed that she never intended Grandparents Day to be about any one particular form of celebration.  In a word, she wanted to “alleviate some loneliness.”

            A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an appreciation dinner for volunteers who serve at an assisted living facility.  My heart was warmed to see approximately 30 individuals attending the dinner, because it helped me realize how many people invest themselves in the lives of those who can no longer live independently.

            Many grandparents are physically able to lift their grandchildren, play with them, bake with them, take them to the zoo or the lake, or attend their ball games and school plays and other special events.  It is a good thing to honor grandparents on a specific day – their day.

            We would do well to remember, however, those grand persons who are no longer physically or emotionally able to fill their role as they might desire.  They still know how to love, and how it feels to be loved.  They still need to know that somebody cares.

            Maybe one day this week you could take time to visit a nursing home or another type of care facility and brighten someone’s day by relieving their loneliness for a few minutes.  You may even decide to “adopt” one person and gift them with a weekly visit.  Happy Grandparents Day everyone, and let’s continue the campaign that Marian McQuade began 40 years ago to honor our elders.        


The Choicest Seats are not Always the Most Comfortable

May 8, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

On a first date with the girl I would eventually marry, our ticketed seats to the gospel music concert in the large auditorium were located on the front row, the first two seats on the center aisle.  She was impressed that I had secured the best seats in the house.  It was as though we were being given an exclusive personal concert!

            One pastor told me that people in his church arrive early in order to get the best seats.  He explained that the sanctuary fills up quickly – from back to front!  It turned out that he was not exaggerating.  Five minutes before starting time there were literally no seats occupied in the front half of the auditorium.

            Over recent decades I have observed that the choice seats in an auditorium for most people are the aisle seats.  I just returned from a ministry leadership conference, and there truly were no bad seats in the house.  It was an excellent design with the floor slanting towards the platform, theater-type seats with removable drink holders; every seat provided quality sound and a good view of the stage.

            The rows near the back had about 20 seats in them, and I found a row with only two persons sitting in it: one in each of the two aisle seats.  The gentleman on the aisle I chose did not seem bothered when I asked if I could get by him to take another seat in the row.  However, by the end of the session he had grown obviously weary of people climbing over him to get in or get out of the row.  I wanted to remind him that he was the one who chose the end seat, but I knew he would not appreciate my helpfulness.

            What is it about the end seat that makes it so valuable and popular?  Is it the freedom of not being sandwiched between two persons?  Is it the convenience of being able to easily get up and leave?  In most cases the aisle seats are the first to be occupied, and then later arrivers must maneuver their way to the vacant spaces in the center of the row, stepping on as few feet as possible.

            You may have been at an event so crowded that someone on the stage had to ask everyone to move towards the center of the row to make room for those still arriving.  Yes, I am aware of the law known as squatter’s rights.  “I got here first.  If they wanted the choice seat, they should have come early like I did.  I planned ahead for this seat, and I am not moving.”

            I realize this is just a small, simple thing.  It does, however, expose the “me-first” attitude that our society has exaggerated over recent decades.  The apostle Paul wrote that being likeminded with Christ includes humbly considering others better than ourselves; that we should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interest of others.

            At a dinner recently someone at our table had already visited the dessert section before starting his meal, informing us that the sweets may be gone if we waited until the end of the meal.  Without thinking about it, I went on over and picked out a slice of my favorite choice, and another for a friend seated with me.  Of course, I had as much right to dessert as every one else at the event.  But I did wonder later if my somewhat selfish gesture kept another person from having dessert.

            When we view things from a Christ-minded perspective, it is no longer about our rights, but about others.  I selfishly hurried over to claim a small plate of 800 calories that I did not need in the first place, just so I would not miss out on that little treat to which I was entitled.  Yet, what I experience over and over again is that I am more at peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment when I live a life that is not primarily about me.  The deeper, truer joy is always in the giving. 

Trunk Treating Offers a Guarded Environment for our Kids

November 3, 2016

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Dressing up like a football player was not only an expression of a dream, but it was a costume that was readily available.  I loved playing football as a kid, and I had all the right equipment: shoulder pads, helmet, and all.  I do remember my older brothers making a costume for me out of a pillow case when I was little, but I really liked being a football player.

                Things were different in those days.  Children went trick-or-treating with no worries.  The popcorn ball or chocolate chip cookies wrapped in cellophane from Mrs. Carney were safe to eat.  There was no danger in stepping inside Mrs. Fowler’s house for a cup of hot chocolate.  We had the freedom to walk to other neighborhoods for a chance to increase the amount of our sweet plunder.

                My best friends back then, Mike and Max, lived two neighborhoods over.  On Saturdays or summer days my mom thought nothing of me being outside all day long.  She knew I would come home if I got hungry or tired, and that not doing so meant one of the other moms fed us lunch.  My mom took her turn feeding us from time to time, as well.

                Today’s practice of “trunk ‘n treat” began, at least in part, as a safe alternative to traditional door-to-door hunting.  A host of vehicles in a church or school parking lot offers a safer environment.  And think of the time and energy the children save when they only have to walk ten feet between treaters!

                Shopping malls also offer a safe environment for this annual candyfest.  Stores gladly welcome children as a way to express appreciation for the community patronage and to provide for a safer evening of fun.

                How did we get here?  How did our society digress in only 50 years from unlocked doors, handshake agreements, and neighborly behavior to a fear of tainted candy, child abduction, and various forms of unprovoked meanness?  How did we breed that sense of entitlement that becomes motivation for disrespect and mistreatment of other human beings?

                Author Henry James, three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”  Apparently, that is something easier said than done, based on our news headlines and personal dealings with the general public.

                I still believe that the overwhelming majority of our population is represented by kind-hearted people, and acts of kindness are usually reciprocated.  Nevertheless, it is necessary today that we live our lives in precaution, not taking that kindness for granted.  More and more, it seems there are people seeking opportunity to take advantage of the kind and unguarded.

                So, I am thankful for my childhood memories of fun and almost fearless freedom to be a kid.  At the same time, I am glad to be part of a community that offers safer environments for our families on occasions such as the one that is immediately upon us.  It is encouraging to see so many people working together for the sake of our youth.  Happy treating!

Don’t Knock Yourself Out

September 9, 2013

Don’t Knock Yourself Out

By Steven J. Callis


Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist L.M. Boyd once wrote about a boxing match back in the early 1930s, when C.D. “Bigboy” Blalock of Louisiana State University–a six-foot-six-inch giant of a boxer–was taking on a stocky fellow from Mississippi State.

Boyd wrote, “In the second round, Bigboy let loose a roundhouse.  The Mississippi man stepped in, and his head caught Bigboy’s arm inside the elbow. With the opponent’s head acting as a lever, Bigboy’s arm whipped around in almost full circle, connecting with haymaker force on Bigboy’s own chin. He staggered, grabbed the rope, walked almost all the way around the ring, and then fell flat for the count–the only prizefighter who ever knocked himself out with a right to his own jaw.”

I could not help but laugh the first time I read this story.  However, it quickly brought to mind the Louis Binstock quote, “We are our own worst enemy as we foolishly build stumbling blocks on the path that leads to success and happiness.”

Ultimately, each one of us is responsible for our own choices and actions.  We can attempt to hide behind our adversarial circumstances, but in reality these are mere excuses to rationalize our vulnerabilities and poor judgments.  There are plenty of examples where right choices have overcome adversity, rather than being victimized by it.

Ask a football coach what his team does during halftime at a game, and his simple answer is really quite profound: we strategize about how to overcome the things that were working against us in the first half, and about what to do with the unexpected surprises brought about by our opponents.

A difficult childhood, alcoholic parents, health issues, financial setbacks, and losses in life certainly present their challenges, but they do not justify selfish avengement or retaliation at the expense of others; poor life choices are not inevitable consequences of adversity.

One writer of deep wisdom offers this 3-fold philosophy about living a good life: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  The reference, however, is not to occasional moments or days of such a life; rather, a consistent, persistent lifestyle.  This advice is something every person can choose to follow; things we can do despite our circumstances or adversity.  It simply is a matter of choice and will.

By the way, the aforementioned writer is the prophet Micah. In its context, the prophet has said that a person can do many good things, but that the surest way to make a difference in one’s world is to persistently act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly [with the Lord].

Don’t beat yourself up over what life has dealt you.  Don’t let your adversity victimize you.  Choose instead to be an overcomer.

The Problem with Oreos

August 9, 2013

The Problem with Oreos

By Steven J. Callis


The Oreo Cookie was introduced in 1912.  No changes were made at all until 1975 when Nabisco introduced a new Oreo Cookie – Double Stuff.  Do you understand what that means?  First of all, the original cookie stood on its own for 63 years!

Here’s my theory on that:  one day on milk and cookie break at the factory, some ordinary employee candidly remarked to his supervisor, “You know, after eating these things for 63 years, I’m getting kinda tired of them.  Why don’t we double the stuffing and see what that does to the flavor!”

The second implication is this: when they finally decided to make a change in the cookie, they did not change the coloring, or the recipe – they just doubled the amount of crème between the two cookie halves.  Brilliant!

Since then, they have tried several different ways to stay on the cutting edge of the cookie world.  They have even tried Cakesters – somehow it does not seem the same without the crunch!  Nabisco has made all of these attempts to keep Oreo on the top of the wanted list.  To my knowledge, however, Nabisco has never tried to sell a crème-less Oreo Cookie.

Think about it.  Without the crème, we would have a crunchy, dry chocolate cookie with cute little flowers on it to keep it from appearing to be a bland, chunky, dry chocolate cookie.  I am sure you’ve seen someone, maybe even yourself, twist the Oreo apart and eat the crème by itself.  I have even seen kids eat the filling and throw the cookie away.  On the other hand, I have never seen anyone eat the cookie and discard the crème.  And that, my friends, is the problem with Oreos – it’s the cookie!  Don’t get me wrong, the cookie is not a bad tasting cookie.  However, without the filling, it would not even be on the most wanted list!  Remember, Nabisco did not double the cookie in 1975, only the stuff!

Let me say it another way: it’s what’s inside that really matters!

The same may also be said for our everyday lives.  Human beings are imperfect creatures.  We make mistakes.  We sometimes choose poorly.  We can be unjust, self-absorbed, and lacking focus.  While I am responsible for all my actions, it does matter to me whether a specific hurtful action is intentional or careless – it matters what is on the inside behind that action.

As a child, I recall hearing it said of certain persons, “He/she has a heart of gold.”  This was a way to say that such a person would not intentionally say or do anything that would hurt another person; that nothing is beyond the limit of what he/she would do for someone else.

Here, then, is a twofold reminder: first, let us check our own motives, seeking to keep them pure.  Second, let us consider (but not assume!) the motives of others, and extend grace where the motive is innocent, even if the action caused hurt.  The Golden Rule is known inside and outside religious circles, and certainly it fits here: treat others the way you want to be treated.